Rejecting his commanders' orders to kill Iraqi children, a British soldier has committed suicide after he was told he could be ordered to shoot dead alleged child suicide bombers in Iraq.
"I can't go out there and shoot at young children. I just can't go to Iraq. I don't care what side they are on. I can't do it," Jason Chelsea told his mother while on the death bed, The Independent reported Friday, August 25.
Chelsea, a Kings, Lancashire and Border Regiment infantryman, died after taking 60 painkillers and slashing his wrists.
The 19-year-old infantryman had undergone pre-deployment training in preparation for his tour of duty in Iraq.
During the course, he was told by his commanders that he could be ordered to kill Iraqi children preparing to carry out suicide attacks.
"Jason said that during the training for Iraq he had been told that children as young as two carry bombs and the time may come when he would have to shoot one to save himself and his friends," his mother, Kerry, said.
"In training, they were made to wrestle with dummies," added the bereaved father.
"Jason said they were also told they might have to fight kids and that they might have to shoot them because they were carrying suicide bombs.
"He said the policy [where there was a suspected suicide bomber] was to shoot first and ask questions later."
There have been no reported cases of attacks in Iraq carried out by young children.
Chelsea's death has sparked calls for an urgent review of the pre-deployment training given to British soldiers bound for Iraq.
"I support the British Army and what it does. But I would like to stand before my son's unit with a picture of him in uniform and ask those who made these comments to him time after time to think about the effect they had," the mother said.
Chelsea had joined the British Army at 16 after a visit to St Augustine's Catholic school, telling his family that the Army was to be his life. He had served in Germany and Cyprus.
But during his recent staying at his parents' house in Wigan, his despair appeared.
The young soldier wrote a note to his parents before committing suicide.
"Really sorry, mum and dad. I'm just no good for you. I have got to finish it. I am just a waste," he said.
"My son was made very, very lonely by what was happening to him," the father said.
"He was very sad inside and he bottled up what was causing it. It was only after the overdose that he told us about his fears over what might happen in Iraq."
Chelsea's death renews concerns about the psychological pressures facing British forces in Iraq.
Early August, the Ministry of Defense said that 1,541 British soldiers in Iraq are suffering from psychiatric illness.
The BBC said in May that the number of British soldiers deserting military service over the US-led invasion has been on the rise with more than 1,000 personnel absent without leave and failing to return since the war.
A recent US study revealed that US troops returning from Iraq have the highest rate of mental health consultation and psychological problems compared to other troops returning from Afghanistan and other trouble spots.
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